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I Just ... Redid My Rental As If I Owned the Place

Shane Ruth’s sophisticatedly homespun Hell’s Kitchen apartment.


Shane Ruth loves a project. Particularly those of the all-consuming, overreaching, endlessly laborious variety. Ruth has spent two decades at Bergdorf Goodman, where he’s now director of visual presentation at the men’s store, and has long worked on its iconic window displays. He draws a distinct line between his job and his home, but his detail-oriented approach carries over to both.

“A lot of my internal workings and mechanisms on how to do things do cross over,” says Ruth. “My work is a lot of assembly and arranging and composition. Those are the key parts of creating a successful window or doing a beautiful interior. Then all of your cleverness and smarts and creativity come into play.”

The major difference when approaching the design of his home was the personal nature of the project. “I really wanted my place to feel like an extension of me,” he says. Though he rents this apartment on a quiet residential stretch of Hell’s Kitchen, Ruth invested in big decorative gestures, celebrating his upgrade to a one-bedroom after ten years spent in a studio. “I did not like walking into my apartment and looking at my bed,” he says. “So I wanted to have another room that had a door I could close to have a separate little sanctuary.”

To counter the prewar apartment’s oversize base and panel molding, Ruth used paint (specifically, Benjamin Moore’s Appalachian Brown in the living room and Steel Wool in the bedroom) as an eraser of sorts. “There’s so much information, I wanted to paint it all one color,” he adds.

It makes for a cleaner backdrop for Ruth’s unique handmade touches. Those include a hand-painted polka-dot ceiling in the main living area, the bespoke woodwork overlay on the kitchen cabinets, and the pentagonal dining table with meticulous geometric inlays; in the bedroom, there’s the customized four-poster side table and a mirrored leather-bound bed of his design.

Then there’s the art—Ruth created a bust and a playful sculpture cast from his own legs for the main room, as well as a painstakingly rendered aerial view of Central Park on a foggy winter day for the bedroom. It looks like a mural but is executed on canvas, so it can go with him when he moves. “There is something in this kind of project that speaks to me and the way I like to approach design,” he says. “Really hands-on, and a little bit too much to take on.”


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